Internet connectivity price drop to benefit research & education in South Caucasus through EaPConnect

  • Posted by Real Wire
  • November 4, 2019 3:43 PM GMT

4 November 2019, Amsterdam, Netherlands Students, researchers and academics in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will be better able to collaborate internationally thanks to improved Internet connectivity with more competitive market prices, achieved in the EU-funded EaPConnect project.

Prices for Internet connectivity for research and education communities in South Caucasus countries have dropped by more than 80% since the project first tendered in 2016. Procurement activities by EaPConnect, led by GÉANT, have helped to achieve this reduction. The money saved by the EaPConnect partners in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia can now be invested in the development of services and skills that will strengthen the national research and education networks (NRENs), better supporting the countries’ research and education communities and their ability to collaborate with peers in Europe and other world regions.

Improving sustainability and digital equality

EaPConnect strives to achieve better connectivity at lower prices because high-bandwidth, secure Internet networks that are dedicated for research and education form the basis service provided by project partner NRENs.

Veronika Di Luna of GÉANT, EaPConnect Project Manager, says: “By helping to reduce prices in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region, the project aims to offer better value to users, to reduce the digital divide between EaP and other countries, and to maintain these positive effects in the long term.”

What has changed?

Geopolitical constraints, difficult terrain and a limited number of suppliers have previously kept market prices high in the South Caucasus countries. But the markets responded to the EaPConnect project’s buying capacity when tendering for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia for the third time. Other significant factors have been a growth in demand for bandwidth across these populations, the improved capacity of the pre-existing Black Sea fibre-optic link to Georgia that is run by Caucasus Online, and the entry of a new competitor to these markets – TransTeleCom - opening up a new geographical route.

Across Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, there has been an 83% drop in total price per Gbps (Gigabits per second) of network connectivity since 2016. The most dramatic decrease has been in Azerbaijan, where the original monthly price of 21,500 euro per Gbps was the highest across all six of the EaP countries, which include Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. The latest monthly price in Azerbaijan is only around 7% of that amount, at around 1,543 euro per Gbps, making it the third cheapest of the six countries overall. The monthly price per Gbps in Georgia has dropped by 78.5%, and in Armenia the decrease is 62.5%.

In this newest round of network procurements, the following changes occurred:

  • GRENA, Georgia

Updated from two 1Gbps links to Frankfurt and Budapest with a 1Gbps backup, to a 3Gbps link to Frankfurt with provider Caucasus Online, plus two 1Gbps backup links with Caucasus Online and Silknet.

  • ASNET-AM, Armenia

Updated from a 1Gbps Frankfurt link with a 0.5Gbps backup, to a 2Gbps link to Frankfurt with supplier TransTeleCom, plus a 1Gbps Internet backup with provider GNC-Alfa.

  • AzScienceNet, Azerbaijan

Updated from a 1Gbps Frankfurt link and a 0.5Gbps Internet backup, to a 3Gbps Frankfurt link and a 1Gbps Internet backup both provided by TransTeleCom.

Procurement in the spotlight

Ramaz Kvatadze CEO of GRENA says: “The GÉANT procurement team performed excellent work which resulted in a significant reduction of connectivity prices in the Caucasus region. The saved amount of funds will be allocated to the upgrade of the network infrastructure and development of new services. This is essential for the integration of the Georgian research and education community in the European Research Area.”

Erik Huizer, CEO of GÉANT says: “I am proud that GÉANT's procurement team has worked hard to support these achievements and we hope the trend towards more affordable network connectivity will continue. International collaboration in research and education depends on good connections - between networks and between people - and GÉANT is pleased to help strengthen both of these sorts of bonds, allowing ever greater opportunities for Eastern Partnership research and education communities to work with their peers in Europe and other world regions.”

Cooperation between the GÉANT community and commercial partners is vital to the successful deployment of these upgraded network links. The GRENA upgrade was completed on 25 May 2019; the ASNET-AM upgrade was completed on 31 October 2019, and the AzScienceNet upgrade is due for completion in November 2019.